Play Ball: MLB unveils new Escondido diamond; CSUSM names baseball coach

MLB All-Star Game helps Escondido kids with new baseball field.

As you may have heard, the Major League Baseball All-Star game comes to Petco Park on Tuesday, July 12.

However, MLB beats the all stars to the punch as it, along with the San Diego Padres Foundation, is scheduled to hold a dedication ceremony for a new baseball diamond at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego — Conrad Prebys Branch, 115 Woodward Avenue, at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 9.

“This site was chosen by MLB as a 2016 All-Star Community Legacy project,” Escondido spokeswoman Joyce Masterson said. “An existing parking lot and green space has been transformed into a multi-purpose baseball diamond complete with manual scoreboard, moveable fences and a large shade structure.”

The 2016 All-Star Legacy initiative includes community improvement projects designed to leave a lasting impact throughout Greater San Diego, according to Masterson. The charitable program is done in tandem with the upcoming 87th MLB All-Star Game. The initiative was made possible by the donation of nearly $5 million toward these local projects that support youth or veterans, as well as to national charitable organizations, she said.

“This project would not be possible without the long-term partnership between the City of Escondido and the Boys & Girls Club,” club president/CEO Danny Sherlock said. “We are grateful for the support of a caring community.”

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said: ““Thanks to the generosity of MLB and the Padres, countless children in our community will have the chance to realize their dreams both on and off the field.”

Put me in Cal State University San Marcos, I’m ready to coach today

Matt Guiliano coaching at Sioux Falls.

Matt Guiliano coaching at Sioux Falls.

“Cal State San Marcos has the potential to be a baseball Mecca.”

— New Cougar head coach Matt Guiliano.

Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM) founding head baseball coach Dennis Pugh retired this season. Following a 6-month search, school officials have named Matt Guiliano new mentor of the baseball Cougars.

Guiliano has been head coach at the University of Sioux Falls, somewhere in the South Dakota wilds, for the last 10 years. However, he has considerable local mojo, having been a star infielder at Valley Center High School and Palomar College. From there it was off to old Sioux Falls U. , student population 1,300, where he set all sorts of school baseball records and was assistant coach before being promoted to head enchilada. One of his strengths was mining San Diego County for players to head to the Upper Midwest where he won several league titles.

Guiliano put together a 176-234 record, but now, at age 33, he returns to his southern California home with an even greater challenge. He will be tasked with steering the hillside Cougars through a second transitional year from the NAIA to the much more prestigious NCAA Division II. That’s where CSUSM now competes mainly with other California state colleges, some with long and succsesfull baseball traditions.

The new coach has the right stuff to continue the transition, observers say. He did the same thing for the Sioux Falls Panthers. Throw in the extensive local ties and voila, the right man for the job, according to CSUSM Athletic Director Jennifer Milo, who led the CSUSM search committee.

“Matt has experience going through the NAIA to NCAA Division II transition,” Milo said. “That will be very important.”

Guiliano is retaining Pugh’s assistants. The only paid assistant, Jared Suwyn, returns as pitching coach. Volunteer assistants Art Warren and Rick Wilson also return. Only Rick Lepire, former Vista High School coach, decided to leave the program.

Pugh is on board with his successor. “He’s a good young guy who will grow and do a good job,” Pugh said to John Maffei. “I think we’ve built a good foundation for him, and he has my full support.”

Pugh built a baseball winner on top of the San Marcos hillside campus. However, NAIA is a far cry from NCAA Division II. The Cougars now compete in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Other CCAA teams: Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State East Bay, Chico State, Sonoma State, Stanislaus State, San Francisco State, Cal Poly Pomona, UC San Diego, Cal State San Bernardino, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Dominguez Hills.

“I’m telling you, the CCAA is one difficult conference.” Pugh said.

Sioux Falls played in a weather-tormented land — think “Fargo” — with no true home field in baseball’s version of Siberia. Sometimes, as many as 10 games a year were called due to inclement weather. The school played in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, against the likes of St. Cloud State, Minnesota State Mankato, Augustana, Minnesota Duluth, Wayne State, Upper Iowa, Minnesota Crookston, Minot State, Concordia St. Paul, Winona State, Southwest Minnesota State, Bemidji State and the University of Mary.

“We are sad to see Coach Guiliano leave but he has been afforded an opportunity to return to his home state and lead a solid program at Cal State-San Marcos,” USF athletic director Josh Snyder said in a statement. “He has developed a strong program at Sioux Falls, including taking the Cougars to the NSIC Tournament for the first time this spring while setting a mark for most wins by a USF baseball team since the move into the NSIC. He has developed a junior varsity program which has provided additional opportunities to student-athletes. We wish him and his family well as they move forward.”

2012 interview with Coach Guiliano.

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